Penguins notebook: Neal takes news of Olympic snub in stride
By Josh Yohe
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, 7:15 p.m.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — If Olympic teams were selected based on statistics, James Neal would be headed to Sochi, Russia.
Instead, he'll have a couple of weeks off during arguably his finest season.
Neal didn't offer any explanation he received for not making the team, only that he received a phone call, and it wasn't the one he wanted.
He did not, however, sound bitter.
“It's an unbelievable team,” Neal said. “A lot of well-deserved guys.”
Neal didn't sound like someone in a funk over the news but instead sounded motivated to continue his stellar play. He has produced 16 goals and 34 points in 24 games this season.
“You've got to keep your head up and keep a smile on your face,” he said. “It's tough. It's disappointing. I wanted to be a part of that team so bad. You only get so many chances. It's the chances of a lifetime to play for Team Canada. I just have to keep my head up, keep moving forward. You never know what might happen in the future.”
Neal is second in the NHL in points per game, trailing only teammate Sidney Crosby.
During the past three NHL seasons, no Canadian winger has produced more than Neal's 77 goals. He also leads all Canadian wingers in goals per game and points per game during that stretch.
Defenseman Kris Letang and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury did not make the Canadian Olympic team, which didn't come as a shock.
Fleury wasn't invited to the team's summer orientation camp despite having Olympic experience and a Stanley Cup on his resume. He said Monday that he was hopeful that he would receive good news, but it never came.
Letang was once thought a strong candidate to make the team. However, a season filled with injuries and defensive lapses removed him from contention.
Headed to Sochi
Aside from the Team Canada news, three other Penguins learned that they were headed to the Olympics.
None came as a surprise.
Evgeni Malkin figures to center the top line for Russia as his nation hosts the Olympics. This will mark the third time Malkin has played in the Olympics; he also played in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Games.
Team Finland selected forward Jussi Jokinen and 19-year-old defenseman Olli Maatta. Jokinen and Maatta have known for weeks they had been selected but remained silent on the topic until Tuesday.
Maatta isn't sure if he would have made this team without the Penguins letting him play in the NHL this season. It wasn't originally in their plans, but Maatta gave them no choice after performing well in training camp.
“I have to thank the Penguins organization for giving me a shot to play here,” Maatta said.
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sharks praise ex-teammate, newest Penguins player Goc
- Penguins notebook: Kennedy struggling to find net in San Jose
- Penguins fail to land star center Kesler at NHL trade deadline
- Stempniak, Goc embrace trades to Penguins
- Despite expanded format, NHL’s outdoor games prove popular
- Penguins warming to cold Soldier Field
- Penguins identify Canucks’ Kesler as top trade target
- Penguins’ Shero a master of NHL trade deadline deals
- Penguins, Flyers jockeying for Kesler
- Penguins stumble to loss at Soldier Field